You know the drill. All the leaves fall off the apple tree in the Fall. The tree looks dead all winter. But then tiny specs of green appear again in the Spring. Before long, the pretty, delicate, pink buds are revealed and then blossom. It’s kind of a relief when I see the apple blossoms. It’s a reassurance that the tree is not only alive but healthy and it will again fulfill the purpose God gave it. The blossoms make me smile.
We all have a purpose whether we know what it is or not. I believe it is through serving others (family, friends or strangers) that our purpose is revealed. Small, kind, acts or words that make someone smile renews hope. That, I believe, is the message of Easter. Jesus Christ gives old things new life and purpose.
The Weekly Photo Challenge this week was Joy. I looked at other posts and saw faces of children, nature photos and descriptions of the joy that Christ brings. I wondered what photo I could post that would exemplify what is joy to me. I thought of the baby girl looking at her daddy with awe. Then I thought of the photo our son-in-law sent us when our daughter delivered their stillborn son. Mama was holding her child tighter than I’ve ever seen her hold anything; staring into his face as she wanted to memorize it forever. Their joy in their other children was certainly amplified from that experience. Heaven now holds more joy than we might have imagined it would.
It got me thinking about what joy really is. Dallin H. Oaks said, “Joy is more than happiness. Joy is the ultimate sensation of well-being.” I don’t know if that is an uncommon definition but I think a lot of Christians describe it that way because of the peace Christ brings when we focus on Him. Elder Oaks added, “The opposite of joy is misery.” Opposition helps me to appreciate the good in my life. Contrast certainly helps to define whatever it is that is opposite. I’m just glad that it doesn’t take much misery for me recognize joy.
I’ve said before, I’ve never appreciated the sun so much as I have after living in Oregon where I can go for weeks without seeing it. Even when it is not cloudy, a mountain (mostly) hides it from my home during the winter months. While that may not be pleasant, it is a far cry from true misery. I’m not saying I want to experience true misery so I can experience true joy. I’m satisfied with the trials I’ve had and I trust that I won’t be given anything I can’t handle.
We happened to be driving down Hwy 101 this evening just before sunset. So we (and about 30 other people) pulled into Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. In typical meerkat fashion, we lined the edge of the parking lot watching the colors change, wondering if we’d be rewarded with a green flash. Some silently watched alone, others were arm-in-arm with a loved one. Parents tried to help children hold their attention on the slow-moving sun. We were rewarded even though I didn’t capture the best of the green flash on camera.
But once the sun set, the real show began. Colors slowly changed from yellow, orange and blue to pink and purple and it lasted and lasted.
So there it was; a few moments of peace and tranquility. It lasted as long as I was still and watched and took it all in. And now I have the memory to reflect on and to contrast. “men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Ne. 2:25.) He created us to have joy! I think this is one area where balance is not required. It only takes a short burst of pain to help me appreciate feeling good for a long time.
After all the preparation and anticipation is over, there is peace. Reality sets in. The day has finally come for Jesus’ arrival. He is here. Now what? Now we continue on; not as we were before our preparations started, but with a bigger heart and more willing to follow Him. Remembering how we felt when giving to others and recreating that feeling by continuing to give of our time and friendship and love. God submitted Himself to this lowly state of mortality to experience pain, sickness, heartache and evil. Why? So He would know how to succor His people (you and me).
Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Sometimes it’s easy to find peace. Sometimes we have to look for it in order to find it. Sometimes we even have to wait for it, having faith that it will come. I know that I feel peace when I read about Christ and think about Him and what He has done for me and His love for me. I also feel peace when I am doing something for others.
An angel appeared to the shepherds as they were watching over their flocks by night. Here again, these men were tending to their responsibilities when they received this incredible vision announcing the birth of the Savior of the world. Verse 8 says “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God”. I think of a choir singing when I read that. The Waldport Branch is fairly small, but when we sing, we sing loud. The Christmas carols sung this week were so heart-warming. The choir director narrated the Christmas story and orchestrated the musical numbers sung by the different choirs: Primary, Relief Society, Priesthood, a family, a piano and then voice solo and the Branch Choir. We sang as a congregation a couple times during the program. Our choir director has a way of getting us to sing out and it is beautiful.
A young couple with their first infant daughter were sitting next to us. The look she had when she looked at her daddy’s face was like she was in complete awe of him. She had a slight smile as her eyes were wide open and bright and her mouth was open. Infants are full of pure love, no judgement, just love for whoever they are focused on. What a beautiful Christmas message she gave me.